Germany's high coronavirus reproduction rate sounds global alarm
Updated 11:37, 12-May-2020

The reproduction rate for the coronavirus pandemic in Germany remained above the critical threshold of 1 with an estimated value of 1.07 on Monday after 1.13 on Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute for public health and disease control (RKI) said.

The number indicates that 100 infected people on average infect 107 others, meaning the number of new infections is accelerating again which could signal the beginning of a second wave of the pandemic in Europe's largest economy.

A reproduction rate of less than 1 means that an outbreak is subsiding, since each infected person is transmitting the virus to fewer than one other person.

An RO rate above 1 means the virus is spreading exponentially, with each contagious person infecting more than one other person. An RO of more than 1 is also an indication that hospitals and healthcare systems are vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed.

"The increase in the reproduction number R makes it necessary to observe the development very closely over the coming days," RKI said in its daily report.

During the fast-spreading outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, the reproduction rate was estimated at around 2.5, according to a World Health Organization analysis.

The estimation of the RO rate in Germany was made only days after the first tentative steps there to reopen the economy, which indicates the potential resurgence of a new wave of coronavirus infections in the country, sounding global alarm as many countries across the world are also lifting restrictions. 

Calculating the reproduction rate can be difficult, especially for large countries with widely divergent demographic regions, while a lack of capacity for widespread testing would also make it difficult to accurately assess the transmission rate.

News that the reproduction rate had climbed back to 1.1 in Germany, which had been held up as a coronavirus mitigation success story, cast a shadow over the reopening of businesses on Monday from Paris hair salons to Shanghai Disneyland, and the easing of restrictions across the United States.

(Cover image: People enjoy sun on boats, on the Landwehrkanal, amid the spread of COVID-19, in Berlin, Germany, May 9, 2020. /Reuters)

(With input from Reuters)